Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Brought to You By the Letter "G"

June 30, 2014

Today I’m joining in a meme I read about at A Work in Progress, and originally started by Simon at Stuck in a Book. His instructions were as follows: 

I’m going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

You, my dear readers, are welcome to play along. If you’d like me to assign you a letter, please comment below. You can participate even if you don’t have a blog—just leave your favorites in the comments.

My randomly assigned letter was “G,” and here are my favorites beginning with that letter: 

Favorite book: Gift From the SeaNot hard to choose this one.

Favorite author:  Elizabeth Gaskell. I have a couple of favorite “G” authors, but I think Elizabeth Gaskell ranks first. I’ve read North and South and Cranford, and have Wives and Daughters on my TBR pile.

Favorite song: “Gonna Get Over You,” Sara Bareilles. This was the hardest category to choose, but Sara is one of my favorite singer songwriters, so she gets the nod.

Favorite film: The Great Mouse Detective. I love this animated movie starring a Sherlock-Holmesian mouse. Ratigan, the villain, is voiced by Vincent Price. Great fun.

Favorite object: My girth, which keeps the saddle on my horse, is definitely one of my favorite objects!

Girths are not necessarity MY favorite objects...
OK, who wants a letter?


Be In It

June 25, 2014

If we haven’t done it ourselves, we’ve known people who have, it seems: taken a vacation mostly to photograph a vacation, not really looking at what’s there, but seeing everything through the viewfinder with the idea of looking at it when they get home. Wendell Berry of Kentucky, one of our most distinguished poets, captures this perfectly. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Wendell Berry, whose most recent book of poems is New Collected Poems,
Counterpoint, 2012. Poem reprinted from New Collected Poems, Counterpoint, 2012, and used with permission of Wendell Berry and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles

June 23, 2014

“Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
Anna Quindlen

I picked up Agatha Christie’s Death in the Air last week because I had a sudden urge for one of her books (and I can use it for the Vintage Mystery Challenge). That got me thinking about books in which planes, trains and automobiles figure as settings or are otherwise integral to the story. Below is an incomplete list of transportation-related titles. Given my love for mysteries, crimes figure in many of these stories (and trains seem to be especially lethal!). Some of these I’ve read (in bold), and others I discovered in my research for this post. Many of these books have been made into movies, if you prefer your transportation stories on the screen.

Death in the Air (alternate title, Death in the Clouds), Agatha Christie. Poisoned darts and Hercule Poirot.
The Flight of the Phoenix, Elleston Trevor. A plane crash in the Sahara—how will the surviving passengers make it out alive?
I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn. A “brilliantly-imagined” telling of what happened after Earhart and her navigator disappeared near New Guinea.
“The Langoliers,” a novella found in Four Past Midnight, Stephen King. And you already thought airplane travel was nightmarish.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupery. Described as “a fable of love and loneliness,” this involves another plane crash in the Sahara.
Non-fiction bonus: Listen! The Wind and North to the Orient, Anne Morrow Lindberg
When I Fell From the Sky, Juliane Koepcke

The Lady Vanishes, Lina Ethel White. Where is Miss Froy? And why does no one except Iris remember her?
Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith. Explores the dark psychological forces under the surface of everyday life.
Murder on the Orient Express and What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (Also known as 4:50 From Paddington), Agatha Christie. Two lethal train rides.
Murder on the Ballarat Train, Kerry Greenwood. Yup. Stay off the train.
The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars, Maurice Dekobra. More adventure on the Orient Express.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, John Godey. Peril on a subway train.
Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne. Boats, trains and hot air balloons!
Non-fiction bonus: The Railway Man, Eric Lomax

On the Road, Jack Kerouac. “The Bible of the Beat Generation.”
Christine, Stephen King. A boy’s first car, as imagined by Stephen King.
Sideways, Rex Pickett. A wine country road trip.
The Pull of the Moon, Elizabeth Berg. Who hasn’t wanted to get in her car and just go?
The Long Way Home, Karen McQuestion. Four women on a road trip from Wisconsin to Las Vegas.
Non-fiction bonus: The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson
Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck.

I see several titles here I want to read (I can’t believe I’ve never read Around the World in 80 Days or Travels With Charley, for example). As I said, I know this list is incomplete—have I left out your favorites? Please share!


Link Love, Iced Tea Edition

June 20, 2014

Welcome to the summer edition of Link Love. Pour yourself a cold drink and explore some of the Internet’s bounty.

Twelve rituals happy, successful people practice every day. As Marc writes, “Am I willing to spend a little time every day like many people won’t, so I can spend the better part of my life like many people can’t?”

Simplifying life often means getting rid of things. Click here to read “10 Things to Add to a Simple Life.” 

Ever wished you could read more about the good happening in the world? Check out, “…a search + discovery platform that highlights and supports businesses doing good things.”

If you’re like me, you struggle with feeling driven to do more. I loved this thoughtful post at Always Well Within that helped me see my “driver” I a new light.

Here’s a list of the 100 greatest non-fiction books, according to The Guardian. How many have you read? I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only read eight.

What kind of life do you have? Brendon Burchard briefly examines three types: caged, comfortable and charged. Click below:

And finally, just for fun, five minutes of my favorite comedian, Brian Regan:



Before, During and After: Coping With the Dark Side

June 16, 2014

Every happy life contains some unhappy moments, hours, even days. Like everyone, I’ve experienced my share of times when happiness seems just out of reach—I can see it, but I can’t catch it! I’ve also had to cope with periods of depression, what I’ve called the dark side. It’s during these unhappy moments that we most need support, encouragement and comfort, and also when we’re least able to ask for what we need, let alone give it to ourselves. I’ve been paying better attention to ways to support myself to keep the dark moments from becoming overwhelming and lingering too long—preparing support before I need it. Perhaps these things will help you during your own dark times.

The first thing to do to cope with dark times is to avoid or minimize them in the first place—at least dark times that are essentially of our own making. I know I can push myself into the dark side by abusing my body and soul—by eating poorly, not sleeping enough, over-scheduling myself and ignoring my deepest needs. When I’m doing the things I know I need, I’m much less likely to fall into a depression. That means I need to eat healthy, move my body, sleep, and allow myself to play and to have down time. I also do better when I’m clear about my priorities, and make sure I take care of the most important ones.

Even if I were perfect in the self-care mentioned above, which I’m not, I would still face times of depression. It’s before the dark side threatens that I list and collect items that make me feel comforted—things like favorite foods, books and movies that make me laugh or conjure up a happier time (recently, Columbo reruns—they remind me of my childhood). Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s (author of The Happiness Project) Happiness Box filled with “little trinkets meant to trigger happy thoughts and memories,” I have hanging on my office wall a display of the ephemera of this year’s happy experiences—visual reminders of how much good I have in my life.

Happy mementos
Before the dark side looms is also the time to think about those I can call on for help when I’m feeling down. I still need to work on this because I tend to hole up on my own when I’m feeling down.

When I’m unable to avoid the dark side, I’ve found a few things that help me feel better. Here are some of them:

1. Wear a favorite perfume—I usually reach for the Tea Olive perfume I bought in New Orleans a few years ago. Not only does it smell good, it reminds me of a happy time.

2. Accomplish something, no matter how small. On days when what I really want to do is put my head on my desk and cry, I choose a small, relatively pleasant action—file some papers, wash and put away a load of laundry, trim a spent orchid flower spike.

3. Give myself permission to take it easy…temporarily. Sometimes a dark episode is brought on by simple exhaustion. A break from the usual, busy routine should help. I try not to fall into complete lethargy for too long, however (see previous suggestion).

4. Remember this, too, shall pass. (And if it doesn’t, it’s time to seek help.)

5. Be kind and gentle with myself. As The Bloggess says, “Depression lies.” When I’m down in the dumps, I suddenly see all my flaws glaring at me. Every negative comment anyone has ever made to me comes back, amplified. I (in)conveniently forget every kind comment and any and all strengths I have. I know I should firmly put aside the negative voices in my head.

6. Limit access to bad news—I stay off the internet (unless I’m visiting a site like Cute Overload or one of my favorite blogs), don’t read the paper or watch the news on TV. Now is the time to enjoy the comforting items I stockpiled earlier.

When I’m feeling better, I think about what led up to the darkness. Are there any adjustments to be made? What can I learn about myself from it? Am I consistently ignoring or denying my deep desires? Do I even know what I want—many people, myself included, aren’t always completely sure.

Am I feeling overworked and overwhelmed? Or am I bored with life and looking to do something worthwhile, to be challenged?

I wish I could say that I consistently do all these things, but I’m still learning how to care for myself before, during and after a visit to the dark side. The very nature of depression makes self-care hard, but I’m not giving up. Coming out of the dark just makes the light so much brighter.

How do you support and care for yourself during dark times?


In Front of Grandma's House

June 11, 2014

Me (and Pedro), in front of Grandma's house

There are many fine poems in which the poet looks deeply into a photograph and tries to touch the lives caught there. Here’s one by Tami Haaland, who lives in Montana. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Little Girl

She’s with Grandma in front
of Grandma’s house, backed
by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.

Who did she ever want
to please? But Grandma
seems half-pleased and annoyed.

No doubt Mother frowns
behind the lens, wants
to straighten this sassy face.

Maybe laughs, too.
Little girl with her mouth wide,
tongue out, yelling

at the camera. See her little
white purse full of treasure,
her white sandals?

She has things to do,
you can tell. Places to explore
beyond the frame,

and these women picking flowers
and taking pictures.
Why won’t they let her go?

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “Little Girl” from When We Wake in the Night, by Tami Haaland, ©2012 WordTech Editions, Cincinnati, Ohio. Poem reprinted by permission of Tami Haaland and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Summer Rerun--Book Junkie

June 09, 2014

Note: I'm taking a more relaxed approach to blogging this summer, so occasionally I'm going to rerun a previous post. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2010. I have made a few minor edits, including updating the photos, since it last appeared, and I've added an author's note regarding the progress (or lack thereof) I'm making on my TBR piles.

I confess. I’m a book junkie. In this electronic age, I’m utterly and completely addicted to books: reading them, buying them, browsing through them in a bookstore or library. When I inhale the smell of a bookstore, especially a used bookstore, my heart flutters and adrenaline surges through me.

Libraries also give me a rush. All those books waiting to be opened—and they’re free. I know my 14-digit library card number by heart, and I adore searching the online catalog and putting books on hold. With one click of a mouse, I can feed my habit with books from libraries all over my county.

And buying books online? While it lacks the sensuality of the bookstore, online book buying gives me an additional fix: endless titles and both familiar and obscure-but-fascinating authors to explore. I can spend hours wandering through Amazon or Abe Books or Not only is there the thrill of finding a bargain book (May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude for a penny!), but the additional pleasure of anticipating the arrival of that book in the mail.

My addiction is such that I read at every opportunity, and in every type of surrounding. Along with more traditional places, such as doctors’ waiting rooms or the bathtub, I read while in the gas station car wash (and once while pumping gas), while in line at the drive through at the pharmacy or bank, while blow drying my hair, while nursing my baby in the middle of the night, and between halves at that baby’s football games (he’s 19 now). I once tried to read in a Jacuzzi spa, but found the jets splashed too much water on the book.

I usually read at least three books at one time—fiction, non-fiction, self-help, humor, spirituality…I’ve got a book for every mood. I read books about books (one of my favorites was aptly titled Leave Me Alone I’m Reading) and keep a log of the books I read each year. Once, I made a New Year’s resolution to read less. When I pack for a vacation, I choose what books to take as carefully as I choose my clothing.

I confess that I feed my husband’s addiction as well. Aside from the pleasure I know reading gives him, if he doesn’t have something good to read, then I won’t be able to…he’ll need conversation or meals or (ahem) “marital attention” when I want to read. (Does that make me a pusher?)

I like to blame my mother for my dilemma. I inherited my love of reading from her, but she may have just the slightest addiction problem herself: she once got a traffic ticket for reading while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. She had opened a book on the seat beside her, snatching sentences while the traffic remained at a standstill. The motorcycle cop who ticketed her did not approve.

Books started out as my innocent companions—my solace in a rather lonely childhood, their characters my friends and comforters. Coming home to an empty house after school wasn’t quite so bad when I could roam the fields and woods of Prince Edward Island with Anne of Green Gables or feel the wind on my face as Alec raced with the Black Stallion. Books taught me about everything from puberty to how to bake brownies. My desire to travel was first awakened by reading James Herriot’s Yorkshire.

Books have enriched my life more than I can say—but somehow, I crossed the line from relaxing hobby to addiction. For years, I kidded myself, denying I had a problem—until we recently remodeled our bedroom closet and my addiction became something I could no longer ignore. On a free-standing bookcase in our closet, I had stored my stash of purchased-but-not-yet-read books. When I moved them to make room for the new closet system, I found I had 52 unread books. That’s a whole year’s worth if I manage to read one a week!

So now I’m in rehab. I can’t buy any more books and I must curtail my library habit until I read some of the ones I actually own. I’ve sifted through the books in the closet and made the hard decision to get rid of a few. As they’ve lingered in the stack, I’ve realized that I’m just not going to read some of them. (Henry James’ The Golden Bowl comes to mind. I’ve begun that book three times and haven’t been able to make it out of the first chapter.)

One of the piles
It’s been several months since I confronted my problem. I haven’t been completely successful in reining in my book habit, but the unread books in my closet now number only 28. Hey, it’s a start.

Author's note: Since I wrote this post, things have only gotten worse. I currently have even MORE than 52 unread books on my shelves, despite participating in two Mount TBR Challenges. In 2014 I have limited my book acquisition to books received from Paperback Swap, purchased from my library's book shop or with my credit at a local used book shop. I'm still acquiring books, but at a slower rate. I don't think I'll ever come to the end of my TBR piles, but my goal is just to get them down to a manageable size so that I won't feel like a hoarder every time I enter my closet.


Right in My Own Backyard

June 06, 2014

Some unusual things have been happening in my own back yard. This plant/tree is blooming:

Anyone know what it is? A neighbor gave us a piece trimmed from her tree (it looked like a three-pronged stick), and it’s growing leaves and blossoming. It smells nice, too.

The ginger is blooming:

So is the geranium:

And the angel wing begonia:

One of our sago palms has produced this:

A mature male Sago produces this cone every second or third year. (Though technically, this is in my front yard.)

On the downside, our dog, who is 15 years old, cut her leg badly enough to need stitches and a trip to the emergency vet. Then two days later, she came in from the backyard with a punctured foot—the vet says either a bite or an entrapment injury. She’s now on lockdown—can’t go out in the backyard without supervision—which doesn’t please her, but oh, well. She’s pretty much back to normal, and I’m taking her to have the stitches removed this morning. (I have pictures of those, too, but I’ll spare you!)

Even though I love to go exploring, it’s clear that there are plenty of everyday adventures to be had right in my own backyard.

What’s been happening in your backyard lately?


She Didn't Come to Stay...

June 04, 2014

But while she was here, she had a profound influence on so many.

I heard Maya Angelou speak in Tampa a few years ago, and while I don’t remember her exact words, I remember the feeling I left with—the feeling that life was a precious gift, and we should live it to the fullest. She was funny and wise and just…amazing.

I’ve only read the first volume of her autobiography (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), but I have a couple more on my TBR shelf (the title of this post is a variation on the last line of her final autobiographical volume, A Song Flung Up to Heaven) and a volume of her poetry.

In remembrance of Maya Angelou, who died May 28 at age 86, here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

“All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are more alike than we are unalike.”

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

“Some critics will write, ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’—which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.”

“I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity, is daring to dare.”

Click below to see Dr. Angelou recite her poem, “Still I Rise.”


Choosing Happiness

June 02, 2014

I think and write a lot about the things that contribute to a happy life in general, as well as what makes me, specifically happy. Lately, I’ve been thinking about one particular factor: choosing happiness.

I know I have a good life. And as I become more mindful of that life, while doing the everyday, ordinary things that make it up—driving to the grocery store, browsing the library shelves, cooking dinner—more often I’m choosing to feel happy. Happy instead of rushed, instead of frustrated, resentful, worried, etc. Happy.

I’m not talking about pasting on a happy face when life is truly hard, or denying pain and negative feelings. I’m talking about recognizing how happy ordinary life can be. Instead of feeling neutral or hurried, instead of zoning out and not feeling anything, I choose to feel happy.

How about you?